White House and California Still Discussing Emission Rules, Incredibly
Considering that the Trump administration’s Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles proposal specifically calls for the revocation of California’s power to set its own emissions rules, it’s miraculous that the Golden State is still willing to discuss the issue. But here we are.
Administration officials and members of the California Air Resources Board (CARB) emerged from a meeting on Wednesday, saying they were working toward resolving their differences over vehicle emissions, interested in establishing a single national standard, and — get this — would be happy to meet again.
CARB has proposed maintaining strict Obama-era rules that call for rising fuel efficiency requirements annually through 2025, while SAFE seeks to freeze national vehicle emissions standards at 2020 levels through 2026. The pair are absolutely opposed on the issue. However, according to Reuters, California’s air chief, Mary Nichols, said she could see a potential window to make a deal this fall.
While that sounds implausible if the current administration is successful in revoking California’s ability to set its own standards, the state has already set itself up for a legal battle. In May, Seventeen states (led by California) announced a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency. The suit alleges that the EPA’s decision to roll back Obama-era standards was conducted in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
As the largest U.S. auto market in the United States, the region also has some bargaining might behind it. If the federal government fails to stop California from self-regulating, it would severely complicate things for the automotive industry. Automakers want looser emissions standards because it’s cheaper for them to adhere to and should better serve existing consumer trends, but they don’t want them at the expense of varied regulatory hurdles. For carmakers, almost any national standard would be better than having to treat one third of the market differently.
California doesn’t appear to have changed its tune and remains set on tightening state vehicle emissions rules after 2020. But the mere fact that it’s issuing joint statements with the current administration and is open to further discussions seems to indicate potential wiggle room coming from one or even both parties. Perhaps we’ll see how that manifests, as Nichols suggested, in the fall.
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